Kalitta, Hight and Gray Post Countdown Wins in NHRA
It may have taken Top Fuel racer Doug Kalitta all season to hoist a Wally in 2017, but what a way to kick off Round 1 of six for the Countdown to the Championship with a win at the 10th annual NHRA Carolina Nationals. The zMAX Dragway outside Charlotte NC was one of three tracks on the NHRA circuit where Kalitta had failed to win over an illustrious career that now includes 43 victories. Kalitta earned his way to the final tree of the day after qualifying in the top slot for Top Fuel and eliminating Chris Karamensines, Tony Schumacher and Clay Millican. In the day's final round, Kalitta nailed a start in his Mac Tools dragster to out run teammate Richie Crampton with a 3.755-second pass at 318.39 mph.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight blasted his way to the third victory of the season with a 3.943 ET at 328.86 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro. The victory earned Hight his 40 career Wally and moved him to the top of the Funny Car points standings for the Countdown to the Championship. Hight, who only qualified sixth fastest, took down Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr. and J.R. Todd on his way to meet teammate Courtney Force in the final round. The win was particularly sweet for Hight who earned low ET honors several times during the regular season but failed to make the final light.
Already claiming the honor of being the youngest professional driver to win a national event in NHRA history, Tanner Gray got his Countdown off to a great start at the Carolina Nationals. The Pro Stock rookie made it to his sixth final round of the year and took down four-time world champion Greg Anderson to claim his fifth Wally of 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Series. Gray was top qualifier in Pro Stock and now leads the points as drivers and teams head to Pennsylvania. The 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues with the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Sept. 21-24.